Friday, May 1, 2015

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Raging Hormones, Werewolves and everything brutally beautiful

Wes Craven's Scream started with the premise that every kid in high school knew the teenage slasher flick genre by heart and, therefore, why pretend? This low-budget but immensely popular Canadian film (it spawned 2 sequels) follows the same route, but from a different perspective. 

It's no joke, for one thing. Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are sisters. They live in a suburban home with a groomed dad and hands-on mom (Mimi Rogers) who talks to them like china dolls. Ginger is 16, Brigitte 15. For fun, they fake murders and suicides and have a death pact, which means if one dies the other kills herself. 

Menstruation becomes a big issue because it hasn't happened yet and the grown-ups can't wait to give advice and be patronizing. The girls are in rebellion against life. They want freedom from the safety of their uneventful existence and refuse to be told what to do. They consider prettier girls bitches and boys unmentionable. They are called freaks. 

Outside the narrow confines of their sulky patch, odd things have been reported, such as the brutal killing of household pets. Have the sisters lost control, or is there a wild creature abroad? When Ginger is attacked in the woods and barely escapes alive, Brigitte knows instinctively what nameless horror awaits. Except, it is not nameless. Does their pact include the living dead? 

The success of Ginger Snaps lies in the commitment of the director (John Fawcett), the actors, most notably the two sisters, the writer (Karen Walton) and a great soundtrack too. They don't go for the it's-behind-you pantomime approach that modern teenage horror movies enjoy. They take it seriously, which makes all the difference between empathy and objectivity. When the most responsible member of the school body turns out to be the in-house dope dealer, you know you cannot trust stereotypes. 

The performances appear forced at first, as if these girls are only pretending to be off-the-wall, which is the point. They grow through fear. Perkins captures the confusion of role play, torn between loss and loyalty, discovering an inane ability to make rapid decisions, while Isabelle thrives on her new identity, decreasingly dependent on the blood of the innocent. If you are the rare soul who has still not seen it yet, the time in now! The Wolf

This review first appeared in the British online magaizne Inside Out way back in early 2000.


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